SAN ANTONIO – Every year, athletes take the basketball courts for March Madness seeking to add new memories and legacies to an incredible pantheon of moments and players.
This year, those athletes never got the chance.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, championships and tournaments for winter collegiate sports were canceled altogether, including the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament. Hundreds of players around the country lost a chance to etch their names in the hearts and minds of America. Texas Western alumnus Nevil Shed is one of the few that has experienced ultimate glory in college basketball, and he understands that pain of that loss.
“I was looking forward to going to the Final Four this year," Shed said. “For something like this to happen, just to close our minds to the accomplishments that so many athletes were working towards, it’s very painful. But they can still sit down and say, ‘Hey, we worked hard for this. We represented our universities and our families, and we know it is not the end of the world. I’ve got that education behind me, and it’s going to take me to another part on my own road to glory.’ It is not a goodbye to us, it’s just a 'to be continued."
Shed was a key contributor on one of the most impactful teams in college basketball history. In 1966, Texas Western College -- now known as the University of Texas at El Paso -- capped a remarkable 23-1 season with a national title, becoming the first squad in NCAA history to start five black players in the championship. Led by a game-high 20 points from guard Bobby Joe Hill, head coach Don Haskins’ Miners defeated Adolph Rupp’s Kentucky Wildcats 72-65 to claim the only national basketball championship for a Texas school. That victory is credited with advancing the eventual desegregation of college basketball teams in the south.
“I mean, you talk about Glory Road? We were legends," Shed explained. "It took a long time for me to really realize that. Just to look at what it has done for all of our society, and even my own kids, opening the doors for minorities to attend any university of their choice... I’m blessed to have been a part of that on March 19, 1966. It will always be in our minds.”
After winning the championship, Shed was drafted by the Boston Celtics in the fourth round of the 1967 NBA Draft and later became an assistant coach for Haskins at Texas Western. He has lived in San Antonio for the last 25 years and currently works as the director of summer training camp for the Spurs. Even during this difficult time, Shed believes the Alamo City will pull through.
“We are a very strong and powerful city. Walking with faith, we will overcome this by the grace of God.”
If you would like to read more of Shed’s memories from the 1966 championship season, you can do so in his own words. In a recent article for The Players’ Tribune, Shed details a first-person account of Texas Western’s dramatic tournament games against Cincinnati and Kansas.